Infoscience

Journal article

Female vulnerability to the development of depression-like behavior in a rat model of intimate partner violence is related to anxious temperament, coping responses, and amygdala vasopressin receptor 1a expression

Exposure to violence is traumatic and an important source of mental health disturbance, yet the factors associated with victimization remain incompletely understood. The aim of the present study was to investigate factors related to vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in females. An animal model of intimate partner violence, which was previously shown to produce long-lasting behavioral effects in females as a result of male partner aggression, was used. The associations among the degree of partner aggression, the long-term consequences on depressive-like behavior, and the impact of the anxious temperament of the female were examined. In a separate group, pre-selected neural markers were evaluated in the amygdala and the lateral septum of females. Expression was examined by analyses of targeted candidate genes, serotonin transporter (slc6a4), vasopressin receptor 1a, (avpr1a), and oxytocin receptor (oxtr). Structural equation modeling revealed that the female's temperament moderated depressive-like behavior that was induced by cohabitation aggression from the male partner. More specifically, increased floating in the forced swim test following male aggression was most apparent in females exhibiting more anxiety-like behavior (i.e., less open arm exploration in an elevated plus-maze) prior to the cohabitation. Aggression reduced slc6a4 levels in the lateral septum. However, the interaction between partner aggression and the anxious temperament of the female affected the expression of avpr1a in the amygdala. Although, aggression reduced levels of this marker in females with high anxiety, no such pattern was observed in females with low anxiety. These results identify important characteristics in females that moderate the impact of male aggression. Furthermore, these results provide potential therapeutic targets of interest in the amygdala and the lateral septum to help improve post-stress behavioral pathology and increase resilience to social adversity.

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